Summer is in full swing, and the Friday Five reflects the season. Blockbusters, great tunes, and rockin' design make up Volume 81. Come for the high-octane action, and stay for the creatively inspiring animation.
The Gray Man
If you're sick of the heat already, we've got good news: we've really hit a groove in Summer Blockbuster Season. This week's hot new release is the long-anticipated spy thriller The Gray Man. The action film is directed by The Russo Brothers, most famous for their contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and stars Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans. It's been a few years since we've seen Gosling on the big screen, but he's still one of the movie stars we get most excited to see. Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, and Rege-Jean Page are just a few of the other huge names to fill out the cast list, and it's a pretty loaded list behind them. Stars, explosions, chases, and intrigue are the perfect ingredients to draw in viewers during the summer, but if you can't make it to a theater, there's no need to worry. The Gray Man is a Netflix film, so after a week-long theatrical-only run, it'll hit the streaming service for you to watch in your living room. Whether you're racing out to the movie theater A/C or waiting to catch it during a summer thunder storm, you should get your popcorn ready.
Home Run Derby
Technically this isn’t until Monday, but we had to find a week to include the Home Run Derby. Nothing says “summer” quite like MLB’s top sluggers trying to hit baseballs to another planet. The Mets’ Pete Alonso is the reigning two-time champion, and it’s going to take a lot to dethrone him. We would love to get as amped up about *anything* as Alonso does about hitting dingers. He’s baseball’s greatest showman, and the rest of the field is great as well — players like Ronald Acuna, jr. And Juan Soto don’t come around often. Above all else, though, you have to keep an eye out for some King Penguin original content that will be airing around the event! Come for the King, and stay for the long home runs into the LA sunset!
Letterkenny has been one of the biggest streaming comedy breakthroughs of the last few years, and now creator Jared Keeso is expanding the universe of the show with his spin-off Shoresy. Keeso stars in the show as well, playing the title character as he embarks on a journey to turn his AAA hockey team around. Shoresy was only shown with his face concealed during the original show, as Keeso was doubling-up roles, but now the character gets the spotlight. Letterkenny is notable for its quick one-liners, unique lingo, and specific hockey references, and the spin-off is successful in all the same ways. Beyond the comedy, both shows have been great at including First Nations characters, which stands out amongst a lot of modern TV. The pace of the show's banter is infectious, and we have to warn you, it might seep into your everyday conversation a bit. Sadly, there are only six episodes out on Hulu, but luckily there's an entire catalogue of Letterkenny episodes to go back and rewatch -- or watch for the first time, if you missed the boat. So don't be a hoser, and go check out Shoresy.
Usher's NPR Tiny Desk
While the music-release calendar slowed down a little bit this week, we made a return to the NPR Tiny Desk for our fix. While the Tiny Desk usually gets artists on their way to stardom, this week they got a visit from Usher, and it naturally went viral. But the appearance at the desk was way more than just the "Watch This" meme. The R&B superstar brought the house down as expected, adding a full brass band to his usual sound. Usher may have become more well-known for his dance moves and club hits, but his voice remains incredibly smooth and silky still, and he shows it off in his performance. It's definitely inspiring to see such a renowned artist totally change his act to play in the more stripped down setting, without losing any of the essence of the music. From a reworked version of "You Make Me Wanna..." to his crowd-pleasing rendition of "Confessions Part II," Usher had the audience grooving the whole time. But it wasn't only the music that caught our attention. Usher spoke a lot about the power of creativity and collaboration, and how much he loved sharing his work with an audience, which really clicked with us. While maybe it's not quite the same as seeing him live, we appreciate that NPR gives us the opportunity to see a free Usher show from the comfort of our living room.
Speaking of live music, our design account this week also brings a rock show to life. We came across David Sujono's "Garage Dreams" on our Instagram Discover feed this week and immediately knew it had to go into the Friday Five. Sujono submitted the short video for Rokoko's "perfect loop" challenge, and it is an incredible twenty seconds of animation and design. "Garage Dreams" is a loop of a robot playing the electric guitar, first in his garage, and then on a stage at a sold out rock show. The message of the video itself is aspirational, as the young robot is practicing so that he can make his dreams come true. But the execution of the design is what gets "Garage Dreams" its spot on this list. Sujono posted his process on Instagram as well, but the incredible detail and painstaking work that went into creating the loop is mind-blowing. The designer sketched out his character and setting before making a clay render, and eventually the full color version. He also mapped his character onto a Rokoko model to make the guitar motions realistic. Everything from the finger-plucking to the stickers on the robot's guitar were hand designed, and we appreciate that attention to detail. On top of all of that, the video is seamlessly looped together, so you can't tell when it starts or ends. If you're anything like us, you might just watch it, mesmerized, for a few minutes before you realize it's on repeat.